Boris Johnson has withdrawn the Conservative whip from the defence committee chair, Tobias Ellwood, who refused to support the government in a confidence vote.
Ellwood, the MP for Bournemouth East who has been an outspoken critic of Johnson’s conduct during his time as prime minister, told whips he intended to continue with a trip abroad during the vote.
Ellwood will no longer be eligible to vote in the Tory party’s leadership election as he will no longer be regarded as a Conservative MP.
A spokesperson for the whips’ office said: “Tobias Ellwood MP has lost the Conservative party whip following his failure to vote in support of the government in the confidence vote last night.”
In a statement, Ellwood said he had been unable to return because of travel issues. He said: “Following my meeting yesterday with the president of Moldova I was unable to secure return travel due to unprecedented disruption both here and in the UK.”
In the debate before the vote, Johnson defended his three years in power in a combative speech that hinted at a “deep state” plot to drag the UK back into the EU when he leaves office.
The government won by 349 to 238, a majority of 111. In a highly unusual move, No 10 called the vote of confidence in itself after it rejected a Labour motion that singled out Johnson.
A source in the whips’ office said confidence votes needed to be taken extremely seriously by all MPs and said a failure to vote in support was considered a failure to support the Conservative party agenda, regardless of whether Johnson was leader.
Ellwood was warned he could lose the whip if he did not attend the vote, despite being “slipped” – which is permission granted by whips not to attend. Ellwood’s slip was rescinded but the source said he ignored overtures to attend.
The source said Ellwood was reminded that the vote of confidence would be taking place and was informed of the repercussions if he were not present.
The source said he had been threatened with the loss of the whip and asked to return on multiple occasions.
Other Conservative MPs cancelled foreign trips, left poorly relatives and one MP’s mother died on the morning of the vote and still attended and voted, the source said.
Labour had originally said it would seek to hold a confidence vote after Johnson announced he was staying on as prime minister until the autumn and a new Conservative leader was in place.
However, the government refused to accept the wording of the Labour motion, which expressed no confidence in the government and the prime minister, so ministers tabled a motion of their own.
July 19, 2022 at 03:28PM Jessica Elgot Chief political corespondent